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Sierra shakes off early rust to rally for first league win
Sierra’s Sharisse Atkins rips it away from Hannah Stanton. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Once bruising Oakdale center Jennie Paugh sat down with her second foul late the first quarter, Sierra stepped up.

After surrendering the game’s first 13 points, the host Timberwolves clawed their way back and prevailed 45-38 Tuesday for their first Valley Oak League victory of the season.

Sierra (1-2, 6-6 overall), which used an 8-0 run early in the fourth to race away, needed to win just to stay within striking distance of the conference leaders, but doing so against Oakdale (2-1, 7-6) was not going to be an easy task.

“This is our team, the one that showed up tonight,” said Sierra senior guard Natalie Goulart, who was one of three Timberwolves to finish with 10 points. “I don’t know where it was the first two games, but we’re ready to redeem ourselves for how we started off.”

And how the Timberwolves started off Tuesday was indicative of their early struggles to start league.

Sierra couldn’t execute on the offensive end and turned it over five times in the first quarter, and Paugh overpowered its usually tough front line during that stretch.

Paugh keyed Oakdale’s 13-0 flurry at the outset, accounting for eight of those points on put-backs.

But with about a minute left in the opening period, Paugh was whistled for her second foul. The complexion of the game then shifted completely in Sierra’s favor.

“We had a couple of buckets that rolled in and out during that time,” Oakdale coach Gary Smith said. “That was crucial, but the big bottom line was that we had to sit Jennie down.”

Goulart hit a deep jumper with 2:34 left in the first to finally get Sierra on board, and Rebecca Wroten came off the bench and drilled a big 3-pointer at the buzzer that helped change the tide.

Wroten pumped in 10 points but was also key on the defensive end, picking up three steals.

“If I was going to give a game ball tonight, I’d give it to the bench,” Sierra coach Johnny Aguilar said. “They energized the team, and Rebecca Wroten had a great game.”

Center Heather Scharmann turned in 10 points and seven rebounds, while Sharisse Atkins had nine points and 10 boards. Ariel McIntyre also pulled down 10 rebounds to go with four points.

Atkins nailed a short jumper from the lane after securing an offensive rebound to keep Sierra ahead, 42-36, with 53 seconds left. McIntyre iced it with an easy layup off Wroten’s fastbreak pass from midcourt.